An airline worker who stole an empty passenger plane from Seattle airport has crashed on a nearby island.
Authorities said the man had made “an unauthorized take-off” late on Friday local time, forcing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to close.
Two F15 fighter jets pursued the plane. It is unclear if the man survived the crash in Puget Sound.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said it was “not a terrorist incident”, adding the man was local and aged 29.
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor later told reporters it appeared to be “a joyride gone terribly wrong”, according to ABC News, adding “most terrorists don’t do loops over the water”.
Air traffic controllers tried to encourage the man to land before the plane crashed, a recording being shared online reveals.
The Seattle Times describes the man as sounding “carefree and wild”, while a number of videos on social media show the plane flying over the area in an erratic manner.
Some dude stole a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), did a loop-the-loop, ALMOST crashed into #ChambersBay, then crossed in front of our party, chased by fighter jets and subsequently crashed. Weird times. pic.twitter.com/Ra4LcIhwfU
— bmbdgty (@drbmbdgty) August 11, 2018
The plane was a Horizon Air Q400, according to a statement from Horizon’s partner airline Alaska Airlines. It crashed on the south of Ketron Island, near a military facility.
In the audio recording, the man can be heard starting to worry about how much fuel he had on board. He also suggests he could land the aircraft by himself because he had played “some video games”.
A woman, Leah Morse, who filmed the jet flying overhead, told news agency Reuters she felt in her “gut something was wrong” after spotting the plane.
Ms Morse’s mother, who lives closer to the area where the plane went down, said her whole house shook. Adding that, “We saw the jets circle back after and she texted that there was no plane.”
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